Less than six months into the Trump presidency, the man who vowed to protect LGBT people has appointed to his administration a slate of anti-LGBT, misogynistic, xenophobic people who have made speedy progress in undermining the rights and health of countless Americans. They have:
Revoked Obama-era guidance protecting LGBT school kids from discrimination;
Withdrawn litigation against North Carolina’s notorious anti-LGBT law which, contrary to misleading claims, was simply replaced by another discriminatory law;
Passed legislation aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood;
Appointed someone to oversee federal family planning dollars who thinks that contraception doesn’t work;
Quietly rescinded safeguards for LGBT employees of federal contractors;
Removed questions related to LGBT people from the National Survey of Older Americans and the 2020 Census;
Signed a so-called “religious liberty” order paving the way for anti-LGBT, anti-woman discrimination by anyone claiming a religious or moral belief as justification; and
Neither the President nor the Secretary of State has said a word about the Chechen government’s concentration camp-like incarceration, torture, and murder of gay men.
This cursory list of his attacks on our community is just the beginning. That’s why I’m heartened by the growing resistance movement throughout the country, including the more than 500 people who joined us in March for some strategic phone-banking to help defeat the first version of the heartless Obamacare “replacement” bill.
We must resist, no matter how hard it may be. But we cannot and must not operate solely from a frame of resistance. That’s not how the women’s movement created a revolution. It’s not how LGBT people came from the shadows to a place of pride. Focusing on resistance, alone, is not how we have literally changed the world.
No matter the obstacles we faced, no matter the party in power, we NEVER accepted the status quo or settled for crumbs. And we certainly have not been satisfied with simply trying to limit the damage being done to us.
I’ve been an activist for 37 years, ever since I led a petition drive in junior high school so girls could wear pants. If I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that we should never sell ourselves short. Simply hunkering down for the next four years is not an option. We cannot allow timidity or fear or even the prospect of short-term failure to reduce our expectations or our demands. That kind of determination has been the key to our movement’s success thus far. And it is key to our future.
We have always fought for more than what the insiders and many outsiders advised. Often we’ve fought for more than what most even dreamed was possible. That has been our movement’s hallmark. In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, we have always expected more. We have demanded more. More freedom, more equality, and more justice for our LGBT community and for all oppressed people.
We have always set our sights high and persevered, even in the most difficult times imaginable. In the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic, with death and devastation all around us, and the horrible backlash that followed against all LGBT people, we never let up. And in so doing, we’ve inspired others all over the world.
And because we never reduced our expectations or lost sight of our ultimate goals, we have won enormous victories; victories that many believed could never be achieved. We changed health care. We enacted non-discrimination laws in cities and states across the nation. We won the right to raise our own children and to serve openly in the military. And we secured the freedom to marry.
Fighting for justice, and winning, is what we know how to do. It’s one of the things we do best. In these difficult times, it’s critical to remind ourselves of that fact. We must remember not only that we are on the right side of history, but that we are fierce and resilient and inspiring. We must use that power to ensure we do more than simply weather the storm. We must BE the storm!
Los Angeles and California have enormous power. We will be to Trump what Texas was to Obama. We will set the example for our nation, continuing to make real progress while holding fast to the values we cherish: inclusivity, diversity, and acceptance. We will organize our community and our allies elsewhere, in red and purple states, so that voices like ours will be heard at town halls, school board meetings, polling places, and everywhere that our rights and health are at stake.
We must remember not only that we are on the right side of history, but that we are fierce and resilient and inspiring. We must use that power to ensure we do more than simply weather the storm. We must BE the storm!
We will speak up and expose wrongs and hold the perpetrators accountable. And in 2018 and 2020, with regard to those who would have us regress to an America that was never great for people like us, we will send them packing!
And while the extremists in Washington attempt to dismantle health care, destroy Planned Parenthood, attack immigrants, pollute the environment, take away women’s rights over our own bodies, promote discrimination against us, and more, your Center will definitely be fighting back and resisting. But with your help, we’ll do so much more. While they build a wall, WE will build our transformational Anita May Rosenstein Campus.
Spanning more than a city block along Santa Monica Boulevard, the campus will dramatically expand our services and housing for two groups who need it the most: LGBT youth and seniors. It will be an iconic landmark that will serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for people around the globe, reflecting the real values that define us, as a people and as a nation: truth, compassion, community, optimism, liberty, and justice for all.
Our campus will be proud and living proof that no matter who is in control, we cannot and will not be stopped. Not now. Not ever. That’s the kind of leadership you should expect from our movement. And I promise you, that’s the kind of leadership your Center will provide.
To learn more about the Anita May Rosenstein Campus including how to become a donor, visit lalgbtcenter.org/campus.